Monthly Archives: June 2011

the outward charm…

I adore this house!

can’t you just imagine C.S. Lewis writing away, sipping his tea and reading, smoking a cigar, hosting friends, and imagining Narnia?

I picture a place of solace and rest, a retreat for the weary, the character of the house lending itself to the envisioned peace.

given the size of our town and my route to various places, this sweet cottage is a regular sighting, a continual dream running through my head.

they cannot be avoided. the house and the dreaming.

it is for sale. out of reach fiscally.

but daydreams are free.

there was an estate sale the other day, and while I am always up for a bargain, the house itself drew me. I suspect the same was true of most people that day!

stepping through the door, I expected the mustiness. by all appearances the house has been closed up for many months. but the dated decor was unexpected. the overwhelming need for updating screamed louder with each footfall. it started as a whisper, “please, help me…” the house begged. by the time the circuit of all three floors was complete, the cry for restoration was palatable. some features of the original house remained. others have been discarded along the way.

from the outside, images of C.S. Lewis dance. on the inside, the Brady Bunch.

over week later, I am still pondering the differences.

which leads me to Jesus’ words about whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27) and the state of my heart, self, masks we wear, and so much more.

so many analogies. so much conviction. where to start? for that matter, where to end?!

the recurring thoughts about this house and my heart have been about what is presented to the world versus the reality of the internal. the outward can easily show such a different picture than what is really happening. I continually ask if my heart is musty and stuck in a rut (or many ruts), if the expense of change is worth it. changes to the internal need exceptional care and a skilled hand. a qualified inspector can make all the difference, finding things the naked eye would miss.

and my heart cries, again and again, to allow only Jesus to be the one who works on my heart, the one to restore it to the original design. He is the architect, contractor, designer, and lover of my soul. with Him there are no mistakes in the blueprints, no unexpected mess.

alas, the final design will not be known in this life. the waiting here will be worth the turmoil and angst. this I know. I have seen the beauty of a soul, albeit the muted beauty of earth, and what He can do when given carte blanche. would that I could be as open to His craftsmanship! would that people see Him instead of me.

there was a grace-gift in being able to enter the house as well. the house itself is out of our reach. could we stretch and make the purchase? maybe. a big maybe. but after seeing the inside, the renovation and restoration needed, and factoring those costs, there is no way, beyond being gifted the house, that we could afford it. and that is good. someone new will move in and (hopefully) do the requisite work. having seen the inside, it remains a dream house for some imaginings. and a renewed sense of thankfulness for our own bungalow washes over me. God does His work in interesting ways, doesn’t He?

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my chief weakness…

I applied for a ministry position this week.

Aside from the usual resume and cover letter, there was also an application to fill out and return. Not a difficult application. But I stumbled through one question, thinking about it for days before putting pen to paper.

What is your chief weakness?

My immediate response startled me and I rebelled against it strongly. And rightly so. It is not a weakness and can actually be a strength for many. It is not a mistake to be corrected or something to apologize for.

I am an introvert.

I like alone. Quiet soothes me. Sometimes I need to talk to process, but mostly I write and think. Retreat is one of the most comfortable disciplines.

Being an introvert in ministry can be difficult. People are not like a business project. They cannot be checked off a to do list. Their lives cannot be contained in regular office hours. There are few neat little boxes to put ministry into and say the “job” is complete. Ministry is relationships, and that means people.Tasks are involved, to be sure. But the heart of ministry is people and their relationship with Christ.

Balance. I struggle to balance the needs of my family, ministry, and self.

Being an introvert is not my weakness. Balance is.

I have been in that place, that lonely place, where the body and heart and soul are worn to nothing. Burnout. It is not alone-ness. It is loneliness on many levels. We often liken burnout to frostbite when describing it. Once the damage has been done, that place is more sensitive. It needs more specialized care. Like a rubber band stretched to the almost-breaking point, there is a fear of being stretched that thin again.There is a remembrance of the pain. A fear of irreparable damage if it happens again.

Balance.

It swings both ways. Run too hard for too long and risk burnout. Or become almost reclusive and miss the ministry, the rich relationships before me, the lessons God wants to teach me and using others to do it.

What helps you maintain balance?

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days on the calendar…

It was one of those days. A date on the calendar. For most, just a date. For me, an anniversary. A painful one.

Dreams shattered.

Life swirling around despite it.

Holding to Jesus. Desperately clinging to Him.

A heart and body wounded, never to be the same.

New questions. A paradigm shift.

A fresh sensitivity inward. Someday to turn outward and hold others in a similar place.

We all have them. Quiet anniversaries. Sacred. Shared with few. Life hurts that remain quietly remembered.

Walking wounded all. Feeling so very alone.

And yet not. Others have tread these familiar paths, so new to us, so unreal.

Death of a loved one. Job loss. Diagnosis. Car accident. Miscarriage. Relationship destroyed. Betrayal. Devastating confession. And so many more.

It is good for me to remember dates like these. They remind me that we all carry heart hurts. And most often we do not know the significant dates on someone else’s calendar. They may need some extra grace, a smile, a kind word. Things that cost me so little time, such small effort. BeingĀ  Jesus’ hands and feet. Bringing some Barnabas encouragement.

More than just a date on the calendar…

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I bring Easter!

we were packing for vacation. lots to do, many bits to remember before packing ourselves into the van and embarking on our journey. suitcases, plastic bins, and miscellany were everywhere. thankfully, the stress was not. it was a casual packing, with time for bits of fun in the middle of it all.

suddenly she brought her little suitcase into the living room and started “packing” by herself. I’d planned to fill it with toys, coloring books, dolls, books, and the sundry bits little girls like to have along. being distracted by my own packing and figuring I’d empty the case later, I let her pack whatever she wanted.

“mommy, I ready now. my suitcase is packed and I bring Easter to Nana.”

I thanked her for packing so thoughtfully. she moved on to her little beads and games. I kept packing.

eventually bedtime rolled around and I asked her to find some jammies. she went straight for her suitcase, unzipped it, and pulled out a set of jammies. it was my first glimpse into what she had done earlier. one pair of jammies. a baby book of pictures. her tiny princess dolls, a book, her teddy bear, and lots of Easter eggs (even a bag of Easter basket grass!)

she had thought through what she wanted to bring for her trip to Nana’s and what treasures she wanted to share. most importantly, she wanted to share Easter.

the little suitcase was so sweetly packed that I did not have the heart to disassemble and repack it. and it has me thinking about Easter and her statement, “mommy, I bring Easter to Nana.”

do I bring Easter? do I live the heart of Easter and carry it everywhere I roam? is Christ central? am I a goodwill ambassador for Him in how I live?

I have realized that bringing Easter is an amazing goal, a worthy pursuit, a lifestyle worth living every day and in every way. bringing Easter means bringing Christ, His mercy, love, hope, and message, to others. in order to do that and do it well, I need to be living it.

the call of the Christian life, at its root, is to bring Easter to others. to live in relationship with Him. to serve Him. to love Him. to let the vertical relationship flow into and through the horizontal ones.

what might “bringing Easter” look like on a practical level, in everyday living?

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dark nights…

there, in the dark of night, was a quiet beep, followed shortly by another, further away. the cordless phones, unable to find their signal, were making their dilemma known.

it was terribly dark, and I was cold.

the nightlights I’d left on were dark.

it seemed the power had gone out for everyone around the lake. the clouds, like a thick blanket, covered the moon and stars. no help from outside to guide me through the cabin and quell the beeping. the furnace was out. my flashlight was missing, relocated by little fingers earlier in the day.

it was a deep, an all-encompassing dark. no amount of time to adjust seemed to help me see a thing. furnishings around the cabin were suddenly potential tripping hazards. I could not see the island across the water. or the far shore.

it was dark. plain and simple.

it drew me back to conversations about spiritual dark nights.

I generally enjoy night. the quiet. the thinking and processing time while others sleep. I find it peaceful and it feeds this introverted soul. the spiritual dark night seems, in the middle of the questioning of God, a similar time of rest, allowing Him to do His mighty work.

but I realized anew last night how dark the dark can be. everyday objects suddenly became obstacles, potential dangers.

how like our faith-journey!

when there are no street lights, no moon or stars, when the nightlight is gone, and no welcoming glow comes from a single house, it is truly dark.

in our spiritual lives, dark times come. God feels far away. everyday objects and routines can become obstacles. what we thought we knew is challenged on new levels. things that are supposed to “work” now seem useless.

there are no silhouettes to guide us. the familiar is suddenly frightening. what will happen in the dark? will we stumble and fall, breaking a bone in the process? or will a stubbed toe be the extent of injury? is it possible come through the dark unscathed? does some sort of “flashlight” exist to help relieve the angst?

how amazing that God, unlike the moon, does not abandon us in our hour of need. He is still there, more powerful than any flashlight.

after tucking the phones, with their twin beeps, under a blanket and pillows and closing the door, I went to find a flashlight, returning to bed in the very quiet and very dark night.

the call for help I’d expected came. more like a scream. because she talks in her sleep, we waited to see how real the need was before venturing back into the cold and dark. “Mommy! I can’t see! Mommy! Help me! Mommy!”

her own volume was so loud she could not hear my voice, calling to her as I made my way (with the flashlight!) to her bedside. picking her up, I felt the great tension in her and the release of it when she knew safety and love had rescued her. as I settled her between us, she snuggled in, safe in her daddy’s embrace, no longer caring that she could not see. it was a new experience for her, this blindness in the dark.

the parallel of her experience and my own spiritual life is not lost. how I kick and scream for God, afraid of the dark that surrounds me. all the while, He offers words of comfort. in my panic, He wants to calm me, to embrace me. but I am too busy fighting the dark (and often Him) to know.

how do you experience the dark, whether natural or spiritual?

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